Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED DX VR AF-S Nikkor
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Lab Test Results
May 13, 2015
by Andrew Alexander
The Nikon 18-140mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 is Nikon's latest ''kit'' lens, sold optionally with the D5XXX and D7XXX series of digital SLR camera. The lens is designed to fit a camera with an APS-C (''subframe'') sensor, so while it will mount on Nikon film or FX digital bodies, it will show obvious vignetting when set to any focal length. The lens appears to replace the older 18-135mm lens, which did not come equipped with VR image stabilization.
Small and light, the 18-140mm represents a field of view of approximately 27-210mm in 35mm terms. To economize and create a more efficient design, the lens is equipped with a variable aperture; as the zoom extends the focal length, both the largest and smallest apertures change. The following chart represents the largest and smallest apertures you can expect at a given focal length:
The lens is equipped with Nikon's vibration reduction (VR) technology, advertising a hand-holding improvement of up to three stops. The lens does not ship with the compatible HB-32 petal-shaped hood, takes 67mm filters, and is available at a MSRP of $600.
The 18-140mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 provides very sharp results, at least as good as its recent contemporaries and better than previous designs in the same focal length range.
Perhaps the best word to describe the sharpness profile of the 18-140mm is 'consistent'. With most zoom lenses, especially in the ''kit'' category, the designer must juggle a variety of factors, not the least of which is the cost of the design. Frequently a lens will be a good wide-angle performer, only to suffer when used at full telephoto; or, vice versa. This is not the case with the 18-140mm, which shows excellent performance at all focal lengths.
The 18-140mm is sharp wide open at all focal lengths, with a small amount of corner softness; typically, there is a large region of central sharpness (the ''sweet spot'') , and corners soften very slightly. Stopping down by just one aperture setting improves this performance; best results are obtained in the 35-50mm range, where corner softness is minimal. By ƒ/11, the lens reaches its optimal performance at all focal lengths, though for the mid-range (again, 35-50mm) the differences between ƒ/8 and ƒ/11 are negligible.
If there's a weakness in the lens at all, it would be performance at 140mm, where image sharpness doesn't quite reach the level seen at other focal lengths. However you'd be hard-pressed to see the quality difference in practical use.
Performance with the lens fully stopped-down isn't as good, but this is to be expected. If you need to stop down the lens, keeping it at the ƒ/22 will give you very good results. The lens is capable of stopping down further, between ƒ/25 and ƒ/36 (depending on the focal length), but at these apertures diffraction takes quite a toll on image sharpness.
There's a bit more chromatic aberration present in images than we've seen in previous offerings from Nikon, but probably not so much to be objectionable; the corners of all of our test images exhibit a slight amount of dark blue fringing around areas of high contrast.
The Nikon 18-140mm exhibits a fair amount of corner shading when the lens is used wide open or at wider apertures; in the worst example, 18mm at ƒ/3.5, the very corners of the image are 3/4 EV darker than the center of the image. This shading decreases as the lens is stopped down, but only really goes away if you stop down to the ƒ/8 or ƒ/11 aperture (or smaller).
Distortion has always been a feature of Nikon's consumer-level zoom lenses, and the 18-140mm has not improved in this regard. There is no focal length setting where the lens has been optimized to produce a distortion-free image. The distortion profile for the lens varies widely with the focal length being used.
At the wider angle focal lengths (18-21mm), distortion is distinctly of the ''barrel'' type, with the center of the image pushing outward from the middle. This form of distortion is easier to correct in image post-processing software, as both the edges and the center of the image are barrel-distorted. At its widest point (18mm) the edges of the image show over 1% barrel distortion.
From 24mm onwards, we see a complex distortion profile: the edges of the image exhibit pincushion-style distortion (the edges of the image are ''pulled'' into the frame) while the center exhibits barrel distortion. The effect isn't dramatically evident - but if you need your photographs to show straight lines as truly straight, then you're in for a bit of a surprise. Straight lines will show the ''moustache'' effect, where they bend one way at one edge, another way in the center, and then back the first way at the other edge. This form of distortion is fairly consistent from 50-105mm; fortunately, it's not especially severe, at around 0.4% barrel distortion in the center and -0.7% pincushion distortion at the edges.
As an AF-S lens, autofocus operation is quick and virtually silent. The 18-140mm will work on all Nikon camera bodies that support SWM (silent wave motor) lenses. Autofocus results can be overridden at any time by simply turning the focus ring.
The 18-140mm isn't designed for macro work, but is holds its own with a respectable 1:4.3 reproduction ratio (0.23x magnification). Minimum close-focusing range is 45cm (almost one and a half feet) from the image sensor; from the end of the lens, you're looking at about 28cm (11 inches).
Build Quality and Handling
The 18-140mm is a solid lens, composed of polycarbonate plastic with a textured black matte finish. Compared to the 18-135mm, it's just slightly longer and wider, and 35 grams heavier (420g), no doubt to accommodate the VR system. It uses the same 67mm filters, which don't rotate during focus or zoom operation. The lens doesn't have the fit and finish of previous kit lenses; there is no distance scale, and consequently no depth-of-field markings. Focal lengths are marked on the lens near the zoom ring, but that's about it. Two control switches are available on the lens' left side: one which enables or disables autofocus (A or M) and one which enables or disables vibration reduction (ON or OFF).
The zoom ring is the major feature of the lens, mounted forward of the focus ring. It's over 1 3/4 inches wide and is composed of a thick ribbed rubber texture which is very easy to grip. The zoom action of the lens is not internal, so the lens will extend almost 2 extra inches at the 140mm end. The zoom ring travels roughly 90 degrees in its range. There is a nice resistance in the zoom action, such that I doubt zoom creep will be a problem with this lens.
The focus ring of the lens significantly smaller than the zoom ring, only 3/8 of an inch in width. It's made of plastic, and does have a nice texture with raised ridges, and the difference in sizes means you won't accidentally turn the wrong ring (provided you remember which ring does what).
For a lens hood, Nikon offers as an optional accessory the HB-32 hood, a plastic, petal-shaped lens hood that attaches via a bayonet mount and can be reversed for storage. The lens isn't flocked on the inside but does a decent job shielding the front element from sun coming in at oblique angles. The lens hood adds an additional 1.25 inches to the overall length of the lens, and will run you around $13.
The lens comes equipped with VR image stabilization. While it's not as impressive at the lens' wide-angle setting, it does live up to Nikon's claims of four stops of hand-holding improvement, when used at 140mm. Check out our IS test tab for more detail.
Nikon 18-135mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ~$?
The older 18-135mm was actually slightly sharper than the newer 18-140mm, but lacked the VR image stabilization of its siblings. The new lens is slightly larger and heavier, but these aren't large lenses to begin with.
Nikon 18-105mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ~$400
If you are actually shopping around for a lens in this category, the 18-105mm offers slightly sharper results, at the expense of zoom range, at a slightly cheaper price.
Sigma 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM ~$400
It doesn't offer the same telephoto zoom distance, but we were impressed with Sigma's sharpness, and its wider variable aperture offers slightly more light-gathering ability, for slightly less than the 18-140mm.
The Nikon 18-135mm was the only kit lens in Nikon's lineup that didn't feature VR image stabilization; the 18-140mm updates that, and adds a small bump in telephoto distance. The 18-140mm is not significantly better than the 18-135mm, other than including this technology, but I imagine from a production point of view it just makes sense to keep the entire lineup of lenses as similar as possible.
For the most part, this probably isn't a lens you'll upgrade to, but rather from, however it's worth knowing that it's a quality optic that's included in most camera kit packages.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Nikon 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED DX VR AF-S Nikkor User Reviews
0 out of 10 points and recommended by WillieG (1 reviews)
"... while it will mount on Nikon film or FX digital bodies, it will show obvious vignetting when set to any focal length."reviewed February 2nd, 2016
Just a correction here: Unlike Canon, Nikon FX cameras are able to mount DX lenses without vignetting allowing you to use your previous lens collection after you move up from DX.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by iamunique127 (2 reviews)zoom range, sharp at all focal lengths, correctable distortiona bit heavy for my purposes
I sought out this lens used for travel in place of my heavy 24-120 f4 and have been fully satisfied with it's performance. I use it mainly on my compact D5300. I've always owned only Nikon lenses and this one performs like a good Nikon lens.reviewed October 8th, 2015 (purchased for $250)
This lens simply does what I want it to do without me noticing any drawbacks in the resulting images. In most cases the zoom range was all that was necessary. If I needed more length I switched to the other camera with the longer lens.
I made a preset for Importing into Lightroom that corrects the distortion so I never even see whatever distortion there may be.
The only drawback I've noticed with this lens is it's size and weight. It is more heavy than I'd like for use on the camera I've coupled it with but that's the trade-off I chose to live with for the image quality and versatility.
Call me more than satisfied.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Mike-Zep (7 reviews)well built and very sharpNot for low light
Recently I bought the Nikon D7200 and this lens came with it as a kit lens. People tend to say that you should be skeptical about kit lenses but this one is really amazing. It's a very versatile lens and I used for many different purposes like landscape, street photography, portraiture, night scenes. It always deliver sharp pics. I also tried it for long time exposure and it perfectly fits into that job. From my point of view, if you're a real amateur, you can't go wrong with this one. Highly recommend to anyone.reviewed June 2nd, 2015 (purchased for $499)
6 out of 10 points and recommended by mailbox-full (1 reviews)Compact, Good all-around zoom rangeCA is noticeable (bad IMO) at full zoom regardless of aperture setting
For non-critical work, snapshots, vacation photos, family get togethers, and when you are looking for only one lens to take with you on a trip to save weight and space, this lens is perfectly adequate. I've taken good pictures with it. It's not a bad lens. It's also not a very good lens either.reviewed April 30th, 2015 (purchased for $275)
If you are more critical, want sharpness throughout the zoom range, need low light performance, and minimal chromatic aberration, look for a different lens
9 out of 10 points and recommended by tfewing (2 reviews)Exceptional VR performance, fast & accurate focusing, and even sharpness through zoom range.Distortion typical for the genre. Price a bit high.
This is a great all-rounder for a D7000 or D7100. I have the 16-85mm, but sometimes I was needing more reach. This provides a very useful zoom range while staying light and compact. Surprisingly, the VR performance is exceptional (a solid 4+ stops), plus autofocus is quite fast, silent, and accurate. It also is evenly sharp at all focal lengths -- even when fully zoomed out. Also, central sharpness is very good wide open; corners need 1-2 stops for improvement. This was all a pleasant surprise, as you usually have to turn to Nikon's pro lenses (which are big in cost and bulk) to achieve performance that stays even at all apertures and focal lengths. Probably a benefit of the use of ED glass and aspherical elements, coupled with good design. I haven't sold my 16-85mm, which is still my standard zoom, but this is a great choice for family and vacation shots when the longer zoom range is useful.reviewed March 10th, 2015 (purchased for $300)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by ppk (8 reviews)Light and good zoom rangeWill not survive a drop or big bump
I have had nikons for a long time, back to 1990. There were tests, but not near the concern that there is today for metrics on performance. Basically you looked at the pics to see how the color and sharpness compared.. And following on that some of my sharpest digital pics are from 2006-7 with my D80 and kit lens 18-135. The pics.. Looked three dimensional.. I traded the 18-135 for a weak 70-300 vr. I missed the 135 lens after it proved to beat its replacement hands down. And I looked for a new one the last couple of years. Then...reviewed April 2nd, 2014
I bought the nikon d7100 with the 18-140 kit lens for $500 off list... So it is hard to compare an old lens to a new one with a 24 mp sensor.. My pics look a lot sharper with the 18-140 than many other lenses I have had.. This lens is a notch sharper than my 18-300 or 18-200 vr dx nikon gear. I believe that to be a fact. Another attribute is that the lens seems to have a better vr than the older lenses. The 67 mm filters are more common too. I also have an 18-105 lens that is put on the camera when my wife uses it. Make you a deal on that blurry mess of a lens..
Looking at others' reviews and numbers it performs better in my book than what is indicated above. It will break in two if you torque it any.. But what doesn't? I think it is sharp at wide and tele in the center and edges..
Seems to capture detail and color the other super zooms blur out. Call me crazy, but less is more.
6 out of 10 points and recommended by Ninja (1 reviews)Good focal length ,good sharpness at 35mm and up ,good builtSoft at 18mm ,high distortion ,hard to focus on bright subject
This lens came with my D5200,I was expecting razor sharp images but unfortunately is soft at 18 mm .The best sharpness is at 140mm ,iQ is not great but is ok, distortion is high .reviewed February 7th, 2014 (purchased for $300)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by sjkip (19 reviews)Excellent focal length range, super sharp, little or no CA or distortion in normal use.Just a bit heavy. Also the focus and focal length collars turn somewhat tightly.
I think this one is even better than the superb 16-85 DX, with which I've taken thousands of pictures. On my cameras, a D7000 and a D90, the 18-140 will now be my workhorse walkabout lens. I've only taken a few dozen pictures with it so far, but I'm amazed at its sharpness and lack of CA. Because of fairly close-in focus, it's almost like a macro, especially if you crop the image severely, which is possible because of the lens's sharpness. I highly recommend this lens to anyone who is interested in real photography, as opposed to shooting pictures of test screens and brick walls. Out in the field it's great.reviewed October 5th, 2013 (purchased for $460)
I have now taken thousands of pictures with this lens, all over the world. It's the most useful workhorse lens I have ever used on my D7100. I am so confident of its performance that I almost never take a second "just to be sure" shot of subjects I don't want to miss. It has held up very well, so I'm increasing the build quality rating to 9.
I have even bought a second, refurbished 18-140, so I can also carry one in my D610 bag to use with that camera in DX mode. It works well that way, and usually produces sharper images outdoors than the 24-85 on that camera. Of course, with the lower pixel count cropping of DX mode images is not as flexible. It does work very well, though, as all my DX lenses do on the D610 in DX mode.
Resolution of the 18-140 at 140 is still a slight problem. It's just not as sharp all the way out. But now I use my newly acquired 55-300 DX lens in the 70-200 range, which yields better resolution at 140.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by photojay (2 reviews)Sharp beyond what I expected from a 18-140,good weight and balance in a D 7100
I belive the previous review was written in haste. This is a very good consumer lens, quick focus,sharp images,easy to carry. With my high resolution D 7100 it performs like a pro zoom. I hope they sell a lot of them.reviewed October 4th, 2013
I am a pro and work for Fire Rescue. The VR is great, using this lens at night when there is a fire is a breeze to do with out external light
3 out of 10 points and not recommended by aimatyna (1 reviews)resolutioncolour aberrations,distorshon on full zoom band.
I've just bought it. I'm upset. I expected much more from Nikon. The single advantage of that lens is the resolution. But it's not ectraordinary resolution. It's simply normal, like all other lenses have.reviewed September 20th, 2013 (purchased for $500)
As for distortion, colour aberrations, vignetting these parameters are quite pour.
I've put some referrnce of the test photos below. It could give you some impressions about that lens:
Anyway 600 USD is not fair price for that lens. The price should be less than 300 USD.
So think twice before you will decide to buy that lens.